I was at the premiere of The Avengers at the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was a big night, so big that the premiere was spread over two screens - one in the enormous Chinese and the other in the Disney-owned El Capitan across the street (that was where all the famous people went). It was Marvel’s biggest movie, and the culmination of their Phase One plans. And as soon as the film started I realized this was going to be another Marvel movie with murky, terrible 3D. If the presentation looked like this at the premiere, I wondered how crummy it would look at local theaters across the country.
I saw The Avengers a couple more times in theaters, always in 2D. It turns out I’m not alone in opting to see a Marvel film two dimensionally; while Thor: The Dark World’s opening weekend theaters were 80% 3D, 60% of audiences saw the film in 2D. That’s an overwhelming refutation of the 3D gimmick.
Calling 3D dead in the wake of Gravity is silly, but it’s beyond due to call time of death on shitty, poorly done 3D. Somehow every Marvel movie looks better at home than it does in 3D theatrical presentation; it’s as if the studio is holding back visually to make you buy the movies on video.
It’s obvious that Marvel’s decision to release all of their films in 3D is financial, not artistic, but even that financial reason is waning. If 60% of audiences went to 20% of Thor’s theaters, what will the numbers be like for Captain America: The Winter Soldier? The 3D bump is diminishing, and it’s well on its way to being a liability for the studio.
Of course Marvel could just do what Gravity did, and plan for 3D. That film wasn’t shot in 3D, but director Alfonse Cuaron meticulously planned every shot for 3D conversion. Nothing in Thor: The Dark World felt particularly designed for 3D; I’ve heard that making The Avengers 3D was a fairly late decision in the pre-production process.
Or they could just stop releasing their movies in 3D. Marvel is making colorful, exciting movies that work best when not viewed through the instant cataracts of 3D glasses. It seems perverse that their movies should look better on my 48 inch TV than on the gigantic screen at the Chinese. It’s not too late to throw in the 3D towel on Winter Soldier, is it?